Agile organizations are created at the intersection of process and culture. That’s one of the key things I learned last week in a webinar I attended. Since our clients depend on us to identify process gaps and get them addressed, this made particular sense to me. Let me share a few things I’ve seen.
- People who are so unhappy with the way they have to do things – the processes – that they are ready to find a new job. They might like the place and the people, but overall feel ineffective, overworked, and stressed.
- Others who are so ingrained in the way things have always been, they don’t want to consider any other way, even it would save them time and improve response to customers. They’ve got the habits – culture – and are unwilling to let go.
- Leaders who don’t know how hard people work and how many hoops they have to jump through to get their daily work done. They may be disappointed in employee turnover or employee productivity, while not understanding the actual work environment or their employment brand.
Because money is involved, in a lot of companies Finance is the driver of business process – whatever makes it easier to invoice and easier to collect is regarded as critical, and other organizational groups must be aligned and responsive to those needs.
I understand that. But here’s what I ask myself – can Finance be happy and acknowledged while we also make things easier on ALL of the workers in the business? Can organizations use their business systems to help with a cultural shift? Can all of the people in the organization have the tools they need to do their job well, without undue hardship and stress?
Let’s pause a moment and think about this.
What does it mean to have an agile organization? As I learned in the webinar, “agile” must be both 1) highly reliable, meaning it rarely breaks, and when it does break, it is easy to diagnose and quick to fix, and 2) it is highly adaptive to change without jeopardizing reliability.
Of course a business system like NetSuite or another ERP platform can’t create an agile organization all by itself. BUT – can it help?
This won’t surprise you: that answer is yes. I have seen it happen.
- I’ve seen organizations go from cumbersome, manual processes to streamlined processes that work logically. As a result, I’ve seen people go from dreading work on their systems to enjoying it and feeling fulfilled and productive.
- Leadership teams have gone from spreadsheet arguments and silo views to a consolidated view of the business. As a result, they’re able to make decisions more quickly and with a better opportunity for success.
- In one manufacturing company, I saw line workers in the plant start working more efficiently. As a result, the time from order to ship went from thirty days to under seven days. (As a result of THAT, by the way, Finance was ecstatic!)
But the really great thing that happened as a result of a change in the business systems was that these organizations, every one of them, has become more agile – more reliable and more adaptive to change without jeopardizing reliability.
So what does that really mean?
It means that when external forces, like competitors, impact the market, they’re able to respond more quickly. In some cases, when the organization HEARS about an upcoming change in the market, they can respond FIRST – which of course puts them in an enviable market position.
It means it is just as easy to un-make a decision or revise a decision as it is to make a decision in the first place. Monitoring the real-time results of a decision and having the processes and culture that enable change means you can pivot on a dime if you need to. That too, puts organizations in an enviable market position.
It means that the business system, like NetSuite or another current, full-featured ERP system, can have a profound impact on the ability to DO work, SEE results, and IMPACT the organization and its people.
Process and culture are interdependent. None of us can change one without also changing the other. We see the impact that business systems can have on culture every day. That’s why paying attention to culture while understanding and streamlining processes is so important.